Best of both worlds: New Club Plus offers hands-on learning

  • Daphne Floral plays a game of predator/prey during Group 5-7 Club Plus, Friday, July 13, in the South End Ravine. The game is meant to teach Club Plus children about ecosystems. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Fans of Boys’ and Girls’ Club may have heard of a new initiative: Club Plus.

Club, the traditional model, is designed more for the outdoors and physical activities, so Club Plus is for those who enjoy more academic challenges. Those at Club Plus still go to Club for the morning session from 9 a.m. to noon, then go to class at 2 p.m.

The classes at Club Plus are usually tied in with the weekly theme and blend STEM education and the arts together to give attendees a more hands-on experience. Classes so far this year have covered topics like poetry and podcasting in Week One, and journalism and science in Week Two. Club Plus runs through Week Six, with instructors scheduled from the Robert H. Jackson Center and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.

“I see how they react to it and how exciting it is for them,” said Dave Griffith, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “The project- based approach, you’re always making something. It’s not just memorizing facts and spitting them back on a test.”

Beyond the routine of Club, Club Plus is an opportunity for kids to get exposed to new things.

“You have kids that would like more variety. Club Plus is a way for them to get it,” Griffith said. “The idea is to give the students an experience that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.”

Club Plus gives clubbers the best of both worlds. They get to be active in the morning and then get to push themselves academically in the afternoon and still have fun while doing it.

“Club Plus will potentially keep more kids satisfied and happy with Club,” Griffith said. “They won’t get burned out, and the flexibility of Club Plus helps a lot.”

Bringing the youth into the larger conversations is a goal for Club Plus, Griffith said.

“We want you to engage in an age-appropriate way with the larger themes and conversations that are going on in the grounds, and here’s a way for you to do that,” Griffith said.

After teaching during Week Three, Colleen Kessler said she likes the program.

“(It’s a) great way to get more kids into the extra activities and give them a good mix of being outside and doing educational activities,” said Kessler, who taught “Explosive and Stretchy Science” for Groups 2 to 4.

Many upcoming Club Plus classes have already been filled, Griffith said.

Griffith is excited to see what the kids make throughout the program.

“To me, education is about a group of people coming together to create new knowledge, new understanding and new things,” Griffith said. “By the end, you can see how they applied it all.”

Karen Schiavone, manager of Special Studies and youth programs, has simple goals for this summer and this program.

“I just want to make sure every kid is having an amazing time here,” Schiavone said. “Chautauqua is such an exceptional place, and I want every kid to feel welcomed.”

Tags : Chautauqua Boys’ and Girls’ ClubClub PlusDave Griffith

The author Donovan Conaway

Donovan Conaway is from Maryland and is a rising senior at the illustrious Morgan State University, where he studies multimedia journalism. He will be reporting on recreation/Boys’ and Girls’ Club for the Daily. His goal for the summer is to learn how to swim. Donovan is a huge sports fan and idolizes Carmelo Anthony. For any sports talk, email him at